The Celebration of Something Bigger: Five Years of Dream On Youth
Have you ever had a dream? I'm not talking about the ones where you fall asleep and wake up thinking "what on this great green earth was that?" I want to know if you ever dreamed something so wild yet realistic that it scared you. It's something you could fail at. Something that if you quit on would not only cost you, but people you love.
Dream On Youth is that thing for me. It instilled a love in me that I know my heart not only needed, but wanted. It brought young women from all over the country together who fangirled, laughed, cried, and although afraid, shared their own self care journeys with the world. It built an inclusive community that would value celebration of one another and take a chance on themselves to create their dream life.
So, after five years, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to celebrate one of the biggest reasons I still do this: the connection and healing power of telling our very own stories. I wanted to bring back DOY ladies from the past to share their journey on our team and see where our current sisterhood stood. These are their words:
Am I dreaming? Or has it been FIVE years since Dream On Youth was born. Seeing as it’s the anniversary of Dream On Youth, I felt it was my duty to deliver a little reflection on what this platform means to me. I was first introduced to DOY back in 2013, through a mutual following on Twitter. I followed the account and started interacting with their posts; always seeing a constant theme…positivity. Whenever I would turn to Twitter as a diary and express my sadness, anger, or built up negativity…I’d always receive a reply from the DOY account telling me things would be better and to look on the bright side. This resonated with me tremendously because back then, it didn’t seem like there was a bright side. I couldn’t see a glimpse of better days, so that positive affirmation was everything. At the time, I had just turned 16 and as a lot of teenagers feel…I felt like the world was against me; like I was allergic to having anything good ever happen to me. I had no one to really turn to about my problems and felt truly alone. However I knew that a support system was only a login and click away, open to listen and understand me.
Fast forward a year later, they were looking for new interns. I’ve never been optimistic about my abilities and I thought it was a long shot to apply, but something sparked inside me that said to go for it. I was blessed with the opportunity to become an intern for Dream On Youth and I was ecstatic. It was the first time I really felt like I belonged somewhere and that people saw potential in me. Looking back, working with DOY has made such a tremendous impact on my life. Working with DOY served as much more than just a job. It was my first internship opportunity and I’m forever thankful for the experience and exposure it gave me. Writing for the blog taught me to believe in my words, because they’re meant to be heard. It gave me a voice that I never knew I had, allowing me to allocate my thoughts and express my emotions in one safe space.
However Dream On Youth shaped much more than just my work ethic. It shaped me into the woman I am today. Like I said previously, I came across DOY at a low point in my life; but having a community of kind-hearted individuals who genuinely wanted to see me win helped me come out of that dark place. Sixteen year old me didn’t think she’d be where she is today. She didn’t believe she’d make it that far. I attribute a lot of the lifestyle changes I made to the time I spent working for Dream On Youth. I was able to distract myself with a passion to deliver content that interested me and that I could be proud of. I learned to step out of my comfort zone, because comfort is a cautious construct prohibiting us from the vast amount of creativity that is instilled within us all. Through DOY, I’ve come to know so many amazing women that I truly am grateful to know. They became my friends; people I could share parts of myself with and not feel ashamed. Each of the lovely Dream On Youth ladies has such crazy amounts of potential and I see nothing but success and happiness in their futures.
I personally want to thank Cydney for believing in me at a time that I didn’t believe in myself. She saw something in me and allowed me to express myself when I needed to. I see her as a big sister now, and I’m forever grateful for her compassion and boss lady magic for building Dream On Youth into what it is today.
As far as advice for future Dream On Youth sisters, my number one tip would be to BE YOURSELF. Coming into the team, I realized that I didn’t have that much in common with the other girls. This made me nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. But the beauty in having a team is that there’s no one similar member. Coming into the experience with an open mind was key, because it allowed me to open my heart to girls I’ve never met before and understand and get to know who they were. I realized that if I had put on a fake persona to try and fit in, I would be cheating myself and DOY. I had to be myself and be proud of what I bring to the table. Doing this made me grow a lot of confidence and helped me realize who I am.
Overall, being apart Dream On Youth was such an amazing experience. I’m thankful for what it has instilled in me. Although I haven’t worked with DOY in a while, it’s a chapter of my life I’ll always cherish. I’m overjoyed with everything that Dream On Youth is. It’s an inspirational and loving platform that’s extremely important. Cheers to 5 wonderful years and may there be many more to come.
I very clearly remember sitting by my computer, anxiously refreshing my twitter feed, one evening in fall of 2013. A week or so earlier, I had spontaneously and bravely submitted an application to intern with Dream on Youth with Cydney, someone I had admired from afar for quite some time. I also very clearly remember my heart dropping when my name wasn’t included on the list. In a second attempt at bravery, I emailed Cydney asking what I could do to better prepare myself for a role at Dream on Youth. Moments later, she shot back an email saying there must have been a mix-up, because my application never came through. After some digging, she found it in her spam folder and I was soon announced as another intern.
At the time, it felt like a huge victory. It was a step in the right direction for me, as I was an aspiring journalist at the time (oh how time changes things!). I had no idea, though, how much Cydney’s leap of faith on me would change my life. At the time, I was just going through the motions. I didn’t fit in at school, I was insecure in who I was, and I had no belief in my big dreams. Through DOY, I met a group of strong “boss ladies” who have done nothing but encourage and believe in me, even though many of us have now taken various different directions. I learned what it means to be surrounded by people who believe in you, and I started to believe that I deserved to be surrounded by those types of people. I realized my worth, I realized my potential, and, for the first time, I started asking for it.
Flash forward 4 years and I’m at my dream school, in my dream city, working my dream internship. I’m in love with my best friend, I have a group of women that push me to better myself every single day, and I no longer accept less than what I deserve. Sure, some days I wake up and beat myself up over the number on the scale, or put myself down for not being as far along in my career as other people my age. But, for the first time in my life, I am truly happy and content. Without DOY, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I can’t thank Cydney and those amazing women enough for taking a chance on me and loving me so fiercely. I can’t wait to see what’s next for this incredible team.
When Cydney asked if I could share my experience about my time and love for Dream On Youth I agreed without hesitation. This community of supportive, creative dreamers, doers and go getters has been an incredible part of my journey. I’ve talked about this story quite often because I never want to forget the people that encouraged me to start. I never want to question why I’m headed where I am because I know why. It’s all thanks to people like Cydney, the self-less, empowering, daring boss lady that she is that had hope for me before she even knew me.
I discovered Cyd and DOY back in the Fall of 2013 when I was in my junior year of college. I began conversing with Cydney, via twitter and soon enough I became involved her mission, Dream On Youth’s mission. When I started following Cydney, seeing the way in which she was incredibly supportive and loving towards me and other total strangers was captivating. She poured out so much goodness into the world I knew I had to be a part of it. Eventually, I joined the team, but even before that her light influenced me to be a light for someone else. At that point, I was 19 and had just transferred to a new school. It was the time in my college career when I needed to start getting serious about post-grad life. There was something about Cydney that changed something in me, making me want to start thinking about my future and what it was I wanted. This was a turning point for me, because not only did I want to find my passion, but I wanted others to do the same. I wanted others to understand that they too could accomplish anything they could ever want if they just believed they could.
Joining the DOY team and group chat is something I will always cherish. That year was a huge transitional period for me personally and having a supportive group of girls only a text message away was so incredibly comforting. We all bonded almost immediately. It was like a sisterhood and I will forever be grateful to Cydney for introducing me to some of my favorite people in the entire world. We laughed together, cried together, sent videos about how our days were going, and rooted for each from states away. I grew a lot that year and I owe a lot of that growth to Cydney and the team.
To anyone interested in becoming a part of a loving, supportive, courageous family look no further. Dream On Youth is the place for you. Be ready to dig a little deeper into who you are and who you want to become. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Ask questions, always ask questions. Stay on top of your game and never hesitate to start a conversation about guacamole. All are welcome.
So, maybe you’re reading this from your couch, underneath a blanket of chocolate candy wrappers. Or maybe you’re perched up at your office desk with one hand on your computer mouse and the other clutched around an extra large coffee. No matter where you’re coming from, the Dream On Youth family welcomes you with open arms (and a tub of guacamole, probably.) This home of empowerment and creativity will become your oyster, in really metaphoric and cliché terms. It will be the place where you truly find how to open your heart. And even on the nights where you’re scrambling to finish your assignment that’s due the next morning because you decided to prioritize binge watching an entire season of Shameless over being productive, you’ll still be incredibly grateful for the rush. It’s an experience you’ll never want to leave. Welcome to your journey.
I was invited as an intern at DOY at the beginning of my junior year of high school, in September of 2015. To be completely honest, I was unbelievably nervous to be embarking this project during the busiest and most hectic year of my school career. I feared that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, or that I wouldn’t be able to put my full effort into every piece that had my name on it or associated with it. Being the youngest one on the team also frightened me, as I knew that everyone else had been through heartbreak and success and everything in between, while I sat there only ever experiencing the breakup of *SPOILER ALERT* Ross and Rachel. I was afraid that my material wouldn’t have enough depth or meaning. My first two months of submitting posts led me to proofreading and editing and reading and editing on an endless cycle until I knew that the piece was the absolute best that it could be. I emailed a piece to Cydney one week and included a paragraph that explained that I didn’t know if it was truly a piece worth posting, as I didn’t think that it was as advanced as the other girls’ posts. What I received as a response, however, hit me hard, and changed my outlook of my work.
She addressed the ideas of grammar and the rules of English, and advised that the article should of course, well, make sense. What really hit me was what followed next in the message. She said that as long as my heart was in the piece, it was a piece that deserved every ounce of publication and recognition. Whether the article was about a new company’s clothing line or about how to deal with anxiety, if I truly felt and believed in what I was writing, then the article would be valued. I had always written poetry and prose in my private journal, and knew that those pieces represented my heart. Articles about photography and dream vacations never appeared to me to be compositions from my heart until that message. What I am writing is rooted directly from my chest, but I had always assumed it was just my way of following an embedded algorithm of writing that sat in my brain from my seventh grade literature class. My heart controls what I say, and for that, my writing is my soul.
If you’re here because you don’t know who you are, then welcome. If you’re here because you know exactly who you are, then it’s nice to meet you too. Dream On Youth is the place where your heart will practice what it preaches, but will also learn to dive into the places that make you feel out of your comfort zone. You will create art that you never thought that you would like, and you will feel emotions that you didn’t even know existed. Being apart of this community of brilliant souls is empowering, and helps you find where you fly. Get ready to be vulnerable and find who you are and where you’re headed. We’re excited to have you here.
If you want to be a member of DOY in the future, go for it. Being a part of a group of girls who share the same views that you do. They are accepting, loving and out there to spread positivity wherever they go.
I know it’s hard to believe that one person can make a change, but trust me, you can. You can change someone’s entire day just by giving them a smile or a compliment. When you work for Dream On Youth, you are surrounded by that type of warm energy. They are girls who will let you in to the most intimate part of their lives and show you it’s okay to open yourself up also and be vulnerable.
When you open yourself up like that, it lets so much love and light into your life and makes you a person that people want to turn to.
The ride I have been on with Dream On Youth is something most certainly to remember. I have found a safe place to release all of my thoughts, my hopes, my dreams. Dream On Youth has given me a sense of creativity and community in which I have honestly not encountered in any other place or format. When I began my journey in October of 2016, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. A shy, insecure girl who was terrified to post a single piece of personal writing on the internet, I have now blossomed, with the help of fellow past and present Dream On Youth girls. Within my few months here, through my writing, I have encouraged others, like me, to open up their hearts and share their worlds. To me, Dream On Youth has been a portal into a world of hope and love, in which I have never known. The support and encouragement that I have received from readers and contributors, alike, has truly empowered me, and I cannot wait to see what is to come within the next five years. To the future girls of Dream On Youth, embrace the experience, challenge yourself, and love the ride. Cheers to five more great years of incredible girls.
In order to accurately describe the impact Dream On Youth has had on my life, we have to go back to the beginning. To do that, let’s rewind to 2013. I was a shy, quiet girl getting ready to take on her senior year of high school. Growing up, I was never the outgoing type, far from it to say the least, but coming out of my junior year in particular, I truly kept to myself.
Junior year was rough and that’s not an understatement. Within the first few weeks, I lost a few friends, dropped out of an AP class, and still wasn’t sure what my plans were for college. Overall, I felt like the sky was falling and I was Chicken Little. In order to kind of avoid the craziness of real life, I turned to my life online. I began to reach out to other girls who knew what I was going through and that’s where, you guessed it, Dream On Youth came into the picture.
The girls of Dream On Youth were open and welcoming from the very beginning, and the more I read their blog posts, the more I realized that I wasn’t alone. Here were girls who were just like me, dealing with the same things, just from different parts of the country. And what was even better was that they had formed such a tight knit group that anyone could tell was filled with love and support. It was exactly the kind of group that I was searching for, so I typed up a tweet telling them to stop writing such relatable posts, and in true Cydney fashion, she reminded me that these were the messages I needed to hear.
Fast forward to January 2014. By this point, senior year was already in full swing and I was still the shy, quiet girl to those around me. But online, I had become friends with the Dream On Youth girls, even though they were miles and miles away from me. During this time, I was silently wishing that I could join them, but after reading their blog posts week after week, I knew my writing skills weren’t at that level. So when Cydney tweeted me about their search for new interns and that I should I apply, that’s exactly what I told her: I wasn’t good enough. And again, Cydney told me what I needed to hear. She told me she wouldn’t have told me about the application if she didn’t think I was more than qualified and that I would never know if I could get picked if I didn’t at least try. But something was still telling me that I couldn’t do it, so I sat back without submitting an application.
It wasn’t until November of 2014 that things started to change. Dream On Youth was once again putting out applications for interns and again, Cydney was pushing me to apply. Although I still had doubts about my writing skills, something was different this time around. I was now a freshmen in college and I began breaking out of my shell little by little. I knew Dream On Youth was the place where I could leave that shell far behind. So I began to type out my application answers and finally hit send with every ounce of nervousness and excitement coursing through my veins. I would accept whatever outcome came out of this, but I was ready to take on something new.
About a week later, an email from Cydney popped up in my inbox with the subject “Drumroll please…” and I scrambled to read every word. Tears began to fill my eyes as I read the word “Congratulations” followed by the fact that I had caused them to hire not two, but three, new interns this time around. I was finally able to join the team that was loving and supporting me through all of the rough patches.
Now we’re here. I’ve been with Dream On Youth for two years now and each day is a new adventure. From new monthly assignments that push you past your comfort zone to group chats that get vulnerable and real, with every ounce of love possible. I feel like I’ve known these girls for forever, yet most of us have never met EVER. I still trust them with all of my most vulnerable inner thoughts.
To the ladies who have been a part of the sisterhood, whether you’re a current intern or made the tough decision to leave, I just want to say thank you. You have helped shape me into the young woman I am today, one that’s no longer shy or scared to share her thoughts. You all have pushed me to be vulnerable and unapologetically confident, all at the same time. Though I doubted my writing skills at first, all of you have pushed me to be a better writer and put my heart into every piece.
To my lovely boss lady Cydney, you have helped me in more ways than you even know! Whether it’s a tweet, a text, or an email full of encouragement, I know I always have you by my side no matter what. I remember being so scared to come to you with questions about my posts, but now I’m constantly seeking your input, knowing that that beautiful mind of yours is cooking up something already. You have the power to do whatever you set your mind to and I cannot wait to see the magic you create.
To the ladies who want to join us, please do! We welcome you with open arms (and definitely a tub of guacamole!) Dream On Youth wants to help you make the changes that you’re so desperately trying to make, even if you’re not quite sure how to yet. We’ll be there every step of the way cheering you on and supporting you 100%. Those doubts that are filling your mind, just like mine, will melt away when you realize the impact you can make with one simple blog post. Someone out there needs your words of encouragement and hope the same way that you and I needed them from the ladies of Dream On Youth. So next time you see us pop up on your social media feed, reach out to us, we want to share some love with you too!